History of The Penticton and Area Access Centre


  • Formed over 30 years ago when BC had the Ministry of Women’s Equality.
  • Core funding was provided by both the federal and provincial governments.
  • Original mandate was to educate the surrounding community about issues that oppressed and/or marginalized women while promoting equality.
  • This was done through events such as Take Back the Night and projects that promoted careers in science for women.
  • The Centre also provided a safe environment for women to gather and find support.

Eventually the Ministry of Women’s Equality was cancelled by the provincial government and funding became very scarce.  Many Women’s Centres across the province closed their doors.  This one adapted in order to continue.

  • Became a resource and referral centre that was funded largely by B.C. Gaming grants.
  • The Disability Advocacy program began and was quickly overwhelmed.
  • Several projects were completed around resource materials for self-advocacy, safety for transient workers, and services for low-income households.
  • Funding from the Law Foundation allowed PAWC to offer a legal advocate to assist with poverty law issues such as tenancy or income security.
  • PAWC retained its feminist roots and as programs quickly filled with many men as well as women it became recognized as a safe place for anyone experiencing oppression or marginalization.
  • As demand continued to grow PAWC also received funding for an outreach worker in the South Okanagan where as of last year we have responded to over 8,800 client contacts.
  • In addition, PAWC began hosting the CRA endorsed Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP).

At this point it became clear that PAWC was now working to help women and men throughout the region who suffer the oppressive and marginalizing effects of poverty.  And although thousands of clients were coming to the centre annually, the broader community had no idea what PAWC did – nor did they know we were doing all of this with only 5 permanent staff members, barely enough funding to keep the lights on, and a dozen volunteers.

  • There was considerable confusion between our organizations and others such as South Okanagan Women in Need Society which also affected our ability to appeal to the community for support.
  • Clauses in our constitution could not be modified in a way that would allow us to become a registered Canadian Charity.
  • Without the ability to clearly appeal to our community for increased support and/or funding we would not be able to keep up with increased demand at our centre.

As a result, The Penticton and Area Access Society was founded and the rich history, not so rich funding, and ambitious mandates of PAWC have all been rolled into what we like to call ACCESS.

*NOTE: Thank you to Marjorie King who provided the content of this history.  She has been a board member with our centre for the better part of two decades!